Our Illinois Specialty Crop Podcast Series showcases specialty crop producers and growers here in Illinois and looks at the stories are behind their farms. The short interviews are recorded by Jim Lewis at WDWS NewsTalk 1400 in Champaign, IL. All of the producers featured in the series sell their products at local farmers markets or at their own farmstead stores here in Central Illinois.
We hope you will enjoy learning about the featured specialty crop producers and check out our accompanying Specialty Crop Cards Series that can be found on our website: https://thelandconnection.org/farmers/resources/specialty-crop-podcast-card-series
Enjoy the series, and let us know what you think.
David Wickboldt - Havilah Gardens Micro Farms [10-27-18]
David Wickboldt of Havilah Gardens Micro Farm in Bellflower, IL joined Jim Lewis at NewsTalk1400 for the final interview in our Illinois Specialty Crop Podcast Series to discuss his 3.5-acre farm and the amazing work he’s doing in both seasonal and year-round specialty crop production through aquaponics and typical agriculture. On the side of typical agriculture Havilah Gardens has a 45-tree orchard, perennial crops including asparagus, grapes, blueberries, and strawberries, as well as seasonal crops that are planted annually. The aquaponics system that David built with his business partner is housed in temperature-controlled greenhouses on the farm, and allows them to grow specialty crops year-round including tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and figs. Listen and learn about what aquaponics is, how aquaponics systems work, what the benefits and drawbacks are, and how David got his start in farming and made his transition into this cutting-edge, symbiotic, agricultural system.
Make sure to check out Havilah Gardens at the final Champaign Farmers Market of the season on October 30!
Katie Bishop - PrairiErth Farm [10-13-18]
Katie Bishop made the journey from Atlanta, IL (Logan County) to speak with Jim Lewis about PrairiErth Farm as part our Specialty Crop Podcast Series. Listen as she talks about the farm, it’s history, the role she plays in daily operations, and how PrairiErth Farm is partnering with other local farms through their new Food Hub. Katie manages the diversified vegetable portion of the 350-acre Certified Organic farm with her husband Hans (they took over the vegetable side from Hans’ father almost a decade ago) and together they have built a business that focuses on the importance of sustainably grown food in the local and regional economy and community. Learn how Katie made the transition from life in a cubicle at State Farm to life on PrairiErth Farm, what drives her to be a major player in the local food system, and why PrairiErth is spelled the way it is.
Listen in and maybe you’ll want to make the switch from cubicle to farm as well!
Shea Belahi - BlueMoon Farm [9-29-18]
Shea Belahi, co-manager of Blue Moon Farm, stops by to talk to Jim Lewis about their operation, how she became part of Blue Moon Farm, and what some of their plans are to increase awareness about local and organic foods in the community. Located just a couple miles north of Urbana, Blue Moon Farm is a Certified Organic, diversified vegetable farm that operates year-round and sells at the Urbana Market at the Square, through Common Ground Food Co-op, and to a number of area restaurants. Although Blue Moon Farm has been around since the mid-90’s, Shea Belahi and Lorien Carsey only became managers of the farm in the past couple years as John Cherniss and Michelle Wander wanted to step back from managing the day-to-day operations of the farm. Make sure to check out the podcast and listen to Shae discuss Blue Moon Farm and what she thinks could be done to encourage continued growth of the local food system.
Anna Schweig - Big Thorn Farm & Brewery [9-15-18]
Anna Schweig, the co-owner of Big Thorn Farm & Brewery, stops by to talk to Jim Lewis about how she and her partner Aaron got started with their off-grid farm and brewery operation. All of the fruit and herbs that they use in their beers, Anna grows on their farm, which is a beautiful 15-acre plot just West of Georgetown, IL near the Little Vermillion River in Vermillion County. On the farm they have gooseberries, pear trees, rugosa roses, blackberries, grapes, and about 100 herbs, among other things. They even harvest wood from the property to help flavor and season their beer. Listen in and hear about all of the things Anna and Aaron have learned as they started their farm with no prior farming experience, what they have planned for the future, and what pieces of advice Anna would pass on to would be specialty crop farmers.
Marty Schulz - The Seasonal Plate [9-1-18]
Marty Schulz, the Farm Manager at The Seasonal Plate in Cullom, IL, stopped by to chat with Jim Lewis about all of the various ventures The Seasonal Plate is involved in, where you can get their produce, and what interesting things you can expect from the farm in the future. Marty grew up with an interest in farming and horticulture, but after attending Parkland and the U of I he ended up managing the Pro Shop at the Pontiac Elks Golf Course. There he met Jake Haag, the owner of The Seasonal Plate, who asked him to join him in the venture as the farm manager. Now, the duo pushes out an amazing array of greens, peppers, tomatoes, and much more from only a half-acre of farmed land and sells their produce in Champaign, Pontiac, and to a large group of restaurants in Chicago through a local farmer co-op.
Hear all about the farm and their restaurant and Inn venture, AcresInn, in Pontiac! Make sure to check out Seasonal Plate at the Champaign Farmers Market and the Pontiac Farmers Market.
John Williams - Red Crib Acres [8-18-18]
John Williams stopped by to chat with Jim Lewis about Red Crib Acres, his orchard business in central Illinois. When John was younger his dad encouraged him to plant a small orchard on their families farm near Sibley, IL. Now, John has taken over the orchard on his family’s farm and taken over management of the orchard that used to be Wolfe Orchard near Monticello, IL. Both those orchards are part of John's new apple endeavor, Red Crib Acres. John has well over two dozen different varieties of apples between both orchards, in addition to growing sorghum and popcorn, and has begun offering a small CSA as well as selling to restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores in and around Champaign County. Learn about how he got his start in apple farming, how he developed the skill-set needed to start his own business, and what his plans are for the future as he looks to grow the productivity of the orchards and begin to slowly expand.
Apple season is upon us and you'll definitely want to check out this podcast! Also, if you're enjoying our content please don't forget to subscribe!